Amazon on Wednesday unloaded a staggering number of new products, from new Fire TV sticks to new Ring and Blink cameras, but the star of the show was a preview of the future capabilities of its Alexa digital assistant.
Dave Limp, the head of devices and services for Amazon who plans to leave the company later this year, was looking to go out on a high note, devoting a large chunk of the presentation to a demonstration of where Alexa will be going. The digital assistant will be able to carry more natural conversations and better recognize your normal speech patterns (including those awkward umms), and will become available as a free preview at a later time (Amazon didn’t specify when).
It was important for Amazon to lay out where Alexa is going considering the intense interest in artificial intelligence. Alexa was a novelty when it first debuted on the 2014 Echo, but the advance of new generative AI systems like ChatGPT makes it feel almost quaint. The online retail giant is positioning Alexa as a next-gen AI, but built specifically to help consumers.
But the day wasn’t just about where Amazon is going; it was also about the products you can order now. The company refreshed a number of devices which hadn’t seen an update in two years, while introducing a few new products.
The tone of this presentation was markedly different from years’ past, when Amazon would introduce at least one unusual, experimental product, whether it was the home robot Astro or the flying Ring Always Home Cam. There was a streak of practicality to the products, likely a result of the belt-tightening at Amazon which resulted in the loss of 27,000 jobs this year.
Instead, we got updates to products that have performed well, and a few devices that meet some customers’ needs. Here’s a breakdown of everything that Amazon announced:
Echo Show 8
Limp kicked off the show by unveiling the Echo Show 8, which features a new camera that’s more centralized for better face chats. It also features better sound thanks to a spatial audio processor integrated into the rear speaker.
The smart display features a faster processor and the ability to address smart home requests locally, allowing for a quicker response.
Another new feature is “Adaptive Content,” which displays different content based on a person’s distance to the device.
The Echo Show 8 will also serve as a smart home hub, with support for Matter, a new standard that promises to work with other rival smart home players like Apple and Google.
There’s a $159.99 Echo Show 8 Photos Edition that has a photo-forward mode displayed on its screen and a six-month subscription to PhotosPlus. The service will cost $1.99 a month after the trial is up.
The event curiously turned to Alexa after the Echo Show 8 reveal, showing off several videos of users testing the enhanced version of the digital assistant. You were able to ask it questions without a wake word, continue asking follow-up questions and even interrupt it to change directions.
Curiously, the demo that Limp did whiffed initially, forcing him to repeat his first two questions. The responses also were a bit slower than promised. But as touted, Alexa knew his preferences and he was able to transition from talking about his college football team to the best recipes to serve to guests for the next game.
Limp said that the enhanced Alexa will be available as a free preview to all Echo speakers, including the original one from 2014. The company declined to provide specific timing.
Amazon also introduced several new features, including eye gaze control as a new accessibility feature, which will first appear on the Fire Max 11 tablet in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Japan, Call Translation, where video calls can be translated in real time with subtitles and Alexa Emergency Assist, a $5.99-a-month service that offers customers quick, hands-free access to first responders.
Echo Pop Kids
The Echo Dot speakers are a popular part of Amazon’s lineup, and the Kids Edition must’ve also been successful, since Amazon rolled out a new version, called Echo Pop Kids, that is $10 cheaper than the Kids Edition at $49.99.
The color Echo Pop Kids feature either Marvel’s Avengers or the Disney Princesses as decorations, and come in a baby blue color.
The speakers come with six months of Amazon Kids+, which is kid-friendly content on Alexa that children can access through the speaker, including trivia, games and mores.
Fire HD 10 Kids
Following along the child-friendly theme, Amazon showed off the Fire HD 10 Kids tablet, which was designed for kids aged 3 to 7, with the Fire HD Kids Pro designed for kids 6-12. The 10.1-inch tablets are lighter than the prior generation to allow for easier holding, and come with colorful designs.
The tablets feature 1080 full HD displays, 3 GB of RAM and up to 13 hours of battery life.
There’s also a Disney bundle for the Fire HD 10 Kids, which comes with a custom-designed Mickey Mouse or Disney Princess case, themed digital wallpapers and quick access to Disney content on their Amazon Kids profile. The company touted 10 additional “Play Together” games for the tablets.
The original Echo Frames were a bit of a novelty, part of Amazon’s bid to get Alexa everywhere, including on your face. Amazon showed it wasn’t just a one-off with an update to the Echo Frames after two years.
The smart glasses can take and make calls, play media, control smart home devices and field questions to Alexa. Amazon partnered with Carrera Eyewear for an array of new designs, with the glasses starting at $269.99.
The glasses get a bigger battery for 40% more continuous audio playback and 80% more continuous talk time than the prior version. At the same time, the temples are 15% thinner for more comfort.
Amazon also introduced two new Fire TV sticks, the Fire TV Stick 4K and the higher end Fire TV Stick 4K Max.
The new Fire TV Stick 4K Max has 16GB of storage, WiFi 6E, and a quad-core 2GHz processor. The biggest improvement is the new remote, which matches the one that comes with the Fire TV Cube, with improved controls for your TV and the Fire TV. The Fire TV Stick 4K Max will cost $59.99 and will be available for preorder today.
Amazon also unveiled a new product in the Fire TV Soundbar, a companion that is compatible with all Fire TV devices, meaning it isn’t Alexa enabled. It features DTS Virtual:X and more detail with Dolby Audio. The soundbar is 24-inches long and can connect to phones, tablets and other Bluetooth devices when not used by the TV. It’ll go on sale for $119.99.
Amazon circled back to Alexa and AI during the Fire TV section, spending demo time on the idea of ambient computing in regards to browsing on the TV, with sophisticated searches that allow for nuanced or open-ended questions.
Eero 7 Max
Amazon jumped into home mesh networking with the eero Max 7, a router that offers two 10Gbps ports and two 2.5 Gbps Ethernet ports and support for hundreds of products. Most importantly, the router embraces Wi-Fi 7, the latest wireless internet protocol, which offer higher speeds and less interference.
Amazon says one eero Max 7 will offer 2,500 square feet of coverage, while a three-pack would cover 7,500 square feet.
The eero 7 Max can also act a smart home hub, and features Matter support, the ability to act as a Thread Border Router and is a built-in Zigbee hub as well.
The eero Max 7 costs $599.99, $1,149.99 for a two pack and $1,699.99 for a three pack.
On the home security front, Blink tweaked its existing Blink Outdoor 4 Camera by offering a Floodlight version. It costs $159.99 and is available for preorder now.
In addition, it unveiled the Blink Sync Module Pro, which extends your network connection beyond your router’s range, allowing you to place your cameras in more varied locations. It will cost $49.99, and comes early next year. For now, it’ll only work with the Outdoor 4 cameras.
Then there’s the Blink Extension Pack, which doubles the life of a battery. The Blink Outdoor 4 Camera, for instance, lasts two years on two AA batteries, but would last four years with the pack, which costs $29.99.
The online retail giant introduced the Ring Stick Up Cam Pro, an upgrade to its popular Ring Stick Up Cam that introduces radar-powered 3D motion detection, offering users a visual history of movement around their homes. A key feature is motion tracking, with the camera able to give you color-coded path of movement around you home.
The Ring Stick Up Cam Pro costs $179.99 for battery and plug-in models, and $209.99 for a solar version.
Lastly, Amazon unveiled the Alexa-powered Echo Hub. It features an 8-inch touchscreen with a customizable dashboard allowing you to group and manage smart devices, arm your security system, start a routine or view camera feeds. You can mount the hub on the wall.
The Echo Hub has support for smart home standards Zigbee, Sidewalk, Thread, Matter, as well as Bluetooth support. It’s also compatible with more than 140,000 connected devices, Amazon said.
The Echo Hub costs $179.99.